Main Line’s ‘Hat Lady’ proves to be award-winning in real estate, dining and networking events – Delco Times

HAVERFORD — She’s known around town as “The Hat Lady,” a moniker that she wears as proudly as the unique and fancy hats on her head. Real Estate agent Michelle Leonard says her signature hats are part of her style and one of the many ways that she is differentiated from other agents in the competitive real estate business.

Anyone who knows the friendly Bryn Mawr resident also knows that it’s not merely the colorful hats, the unique dresses or the signature large pearl necklace, that make Leonard memorable. The woman, a walking, talking definition of the catchphrase “social butterfly,” promotes small businesses and local charities, introduces and connects people all over the region, and seems to have a contact list that stretches to every corner of the tri-state area . Her list of friends runs the gamut from Main Line socialites, community leaders, and business owners to pro sports figures, chefs and TV newscasters.

As a real estate agent with Keller Williams, Leonard recently became part of the exclusive Keller Williams Sports and Entertainment (KWSE) division, a network dedicated to providing professional athletes, musicians, and artists with her real estate expertise. Less than 1% of over 160,000 Keller Williams Realty agents in the United States, have been invited to be a part of this elite group of Realtors. She now can represent professional athletes, celebrities and others in the field with their luxury home sales, relocations, purchases and investments.

“This is a huge and humbling opportunity for me as it means that I have been recognized for my ability to serve such clientele with discretion, at the highest level of service and attention,” Leonard said in a recent interview.

Leonard says that she works with clients buying and selling homes as modest as $150,000 all the way up to the millions.
“Most of my business is in repeat clients and referrals, but even in this current crazy housing market, I continue to attract new clients, too,” she stated proudly.

She will continue to serve clients of all backgrounds and income levels in the Main Line and the Greater Philadelphia area of ​​Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia. However, it’s the Main Line area where Leonard built her outstanding career and personal reputation.

Few understand the Main Line as Leonard does. Her background is as “Main Line-ish” as it gets.

Although she was born in Augusta, Georgia, Leonard lived in Baltimore until she was in third grade, attending a school ironically named “Bryn Mawr School,” a foreshadowing of her future. Her mother, who held a masters degree in mathematics, taught at Johns Hopkins University. Leonard’s mother Sandra left Michelle’s biological father when she was only one-year-old, later marrying Eugene Leonard who adopted young Michelle. The Leonards moved to Wynnewood in 1969.

Michelle attended Friends Select School for two years, and then Agnes Irwin, from grades 5-12, from where she graduated. In 1978, after graduating from Agnes Irwin, Leonard was introduced as a debutante at a Debutante Ball at the former Sheraton Philadelphia- Society Hill.
“I remember we came down the big staircase in pairs and it was a big party,” Leonard shared. “This formally introduced me to the Philadelphia-Main Line social scene.”

She attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, following in her mother’s footsteps by earning a degree in Mathematics.
“My mother and I were so much alike,” Leonard relates. “If people think I’m social, they should have with my mother—she was way more social than I am. My mother was like the belle of the ball!”

Michelle was always a people person. She was president of the Math Club in college.

After college, Leonard moved back home. Although she had worked at her father’s business, the Leonard Corporation in Philadelphia, during her summers while in school, she said that she was eager to try her own wings.

She began her career working for State Rep. Richard McClatchy and First Pennsylvania Bank, and in 1987, she began her real estate career. As a realtor, Leonard gained award after award through the years, including Top Agent in her office. Her career path took her to Coldwell Banker in Haverford, Fox and Lazo in Haverford, Long and Foster in Devon, Keller Williams in Devon and Wayne, Century 21 in Newtown Square, and others. In 2019, Leonard returned to Keller Williams Realty, Inc., where she is rated to be number ten in sales out of 180 area agents.
“I think that my success in real estate profession is that I’ve always made my clients my number one priority and build a relationship with them,” Leonard reflects. “I don’t have a big team so if you want to work with me, you will work with me, not someone else on a team.”
Her awards have also included Philadelphia Magazine’s Top Realtor Five Star Professional” award. However, Leonard says that receiving the “Readers Choice, Best Realtor” Award in 2021 by Main Line Today Magazine, was one of her most treasured awards.
“This award was one of my favorites because it had nothing to do with the volume of sales, but had to do with the quality of my service,” Leonard remarked. “My goal is to make my clients outrageously happy so that they’ll recommend me.”

She credits her mother for teaching her to help others and give of herself.

“My Mom was always volunteering and helping others. She took dinner to her friend Ruth, three times a week. She would ask people, “What can I do to help you?”

Leonard says she follows the advice of a Penn professor who says to do five minute favors each day to make the world a better place.
Before Michelle’s father passed away in 2010, he was seriously ill and her mother Sandra took care of him at home. Unable to go out much, she brought her social life to her home. She and Michelle would send out written invitations and host elegant dinner parties with ten interesting guests at a time. Mother and daughter structured their dinners like the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world.

“My mom was my best friend,” Leonard shared. “I learned so much from her.”
After Sandra passed away in 2012, Leonard continued her mother’s tradition to this day. Her dinner parties are themed to match whatever occasion is happening. She owns dozens of dinnerware sets, with tableware to match, to celebrate everything from Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, and Galentine’s Day to Halloween, Bastille Day, Election Day, March Madness, President’s Day and more.

“You can imagine, that I also have lots of silverware,” Leonard added, with a smile. “With all those dinner courses, I need them.”
Her tablescapes are so impressive that she has an Instagram site (@michelleleonardisentertaining) just to display them.

Like her dish and tableware, Leonard also boasts an amazing themed array of hats and dresses to match. Few, other than Leonard, have a “Gritty” dress to support the Flyers, a “crab” dress to don at the shore, a baseball dress to cheer on the Phillies, a horse dress for the Kentucky Derby, or a Flag dress for Flag Day—all with coordinating hats, of course! In all, Leonard says she owns upwards of 150 hats. She has always been, right in her element, at the Devon Horse Show, where hats are the norm. She has been a ten-day box holder for 45 years, and says that she enjoys seeing the array of hats on the ladies there, and at the Radnor Hunt each spring.

“I do give some of my hats away to make room for new ones,” she chuckles. “I have a lot of red in my wardrobe. Red is a very popular color in my world.”

In addition to real estate agent and social connector, Leonard is also an author. In 2000, she wrote and published the children’s book, “The Tusk Family Visits Philadelphia” and sold 5,000 copies that month when the Republican National Convention was in Philadelphia. She says that she currently is working on a “Selling Secrets You Can’t Afford To Miss,” book that will help readers sell their homes. On social media, she writes two or three extensive restaurant reviews each week about her dining out experiences and does informational videos of people and businesses “if she believes in them.” Although she has the “Main Line flair,” Leonard also possesses a down-to-earth, charming way of making all people feel comfortable in her company.

Not many know that Leonard is a two-time cancer survivor, having been treated for both uterine and skin cancers. She also was diagnosed with Diabetes in 2015. However, few setbacks can keep Leonard removed from the social scene for very long.

Leonard has become a social director, of sorts, in the Main Line and surrounding areas. She began in 2017, by hosting “Tasty Talks,” a creation of her own, once a month at the former Yang Ming Restaurant in Radnor Township. People would flock there to be a part of her unique networking lunch and learn events, which would feature a well-known local celebrity who would speak during a five-course gourmet lunch. The guest speaker would choose a charity of their choice and proceeds from the luncheon would go to their designated charity. Past speakers at the lunches include Ed Rendell, Tracy Davidson, Steve Morrison, Sue Serio, Pat Ciarrocchi, Jenna Meissner, Jim Donovan, Stephanie Stahl, Nicole Michalik, Nick Foley, Marilyn Russell, Karen Hepp, Lisa Thomas-Laury and others.

When Yang Ming closed in 2020, Leonard held a few more of the lunches at Iron Hill in Ardmore, but decided to turn all of her attention to the Dine and Dish dinners, which she had started in January 2019 to complement the success of her luncheons after people kept asking her for dinner programs. Like the luncheons, the Dine and Dish events also have an all-star lineup of speakers that have included business woman Mary Dougherty, restauranteur/ recording artist Tony Luke, Philadelphia Flyers alum Chris Therien, former NFL player Paul Palmer and others. In June, the Dine and Dish event featured 97.5 The Fanatic’s John Kincade.

The Dine and Dish dinners are presented similarly to the luncheons with a well-known speaker who selects a charity benefactor of their choice.
“I never made a penny on the lunches or the dinners,” Leonard stated. “I do it because I enjoy learning and meeting new people, and I can see my guests do too.”

Like the lunches, Leonard also invites select guests to sit at a VIP table and introduces each one of them, so attendees get to meet and mingle with community leaders and other high profile guests. The seating is curated, providing an extra opportunity for attendees to meet and get to know others in attendance at the ultimate networking events. Additionally, she allows the chef and restaurant owner to come out and say a few words to the audience so guests can learn about the restaurant.

Leonard hires a professional photographer and calls guests onto the red carpet so “the paparazzi” can take photos of all the guests. She then posts them, afterwards, like a Main Line society page on social media.

Instead of holding the Dine and Dish events at a set venue, like she did for the luncheons, Leonard switches the dinners to a variety of Main Line restaurants so attendees will get to experience new places that perhaps they’ve been wanting to try. Dine and Dish has been held at the The Refectory at Villanova, 30 Main , Margaret Kuo’s Wayne, Nectar, The Bercy, Main & Vine, and other restaurants.

“My mom Sandra and my grandmother, Thelma, who lived with us until she passed away in 2007, both loved fine dining, good cooking, and volunteering. My mother always had a fondness for meeting new people and being a part of the local social scene,” Leonard shared. “I guess all kind of rolled into me.”

To find out about upcoming Dine and Dish events, call Michelle Leonard at 610-331-5913 or visit http://www.MichelleDLeonard.com or https://www.facebook.com/MichelleLeonardRealtor/.

During a recent interview, Michelle Leonard, AKA “The Hat Lady,” talks about how she has learned to bring people together and help them network and learn from each other. (PEG DEGRASSA/ MediaNews Group)
Real Estate Agent, Michelle Leonard is known as “The Hat Lady.” She has made a career in real estate, and as a social connector with her Tasty Talks and Dine and Dish events. (PEG DEGRASSA/ MediaNews Group)
Michelle Leonard, of Bryn Mawr, stands with Devon Horse Show's chairman, Wayne Grafton, at this year's show.  Leonard has had a box at the show for over 45 years.  (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Michelle Leonard, of Bryn Mawr, stands with Devon Horse Show’s chairman, Wayne Grafton, at this year’s show. Leonard has had a box at the show for over 45 years. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

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